Jim's on furlough and I'm driving the bus, so the plan is not to just talk about Chris Sale today. The pitchers in general are in such a state of flux with a relative dearth of commentary from a scouting perspective. I'm going to cover anyone I've got something to say about in a later post.
Ok, so about Sale. For one, I don't think he should have been out there for the 8th inning. Or, rather, I think he should have been pulled once it was clear he was starting to fade and the situational leverage went up. It's absolutely the case Sale is the kind of guy we need to lean on given everything else going on with the staff. But he didn't look himself for an inning or two. It happens and it's not hard to spot. His velocity starts to dip noticeably and/or there's an abnormal variance in it. And but so if things look screwy and his mechanics start to falter, that's when injuries happen. We should probably avoid letting that happen, right?
Another point about Sale: I've mentioned before and I want to reiterate just how good his command has been. He's lost 3 mph off every pitch he throws and despite all that he's actually lowered his ERA and FIP. That's nuts.
His stuff has been good. His command has been absolutely stellar and it's given him a lot of leeway with his velocity. His fastball goes up and down in speed a lot and it registers as weird to me and presumably it's been somewhat weird for the Sox staff. But so far it looks like he's been picking a velocity that enables him to hit his spots. His strikeouts are sometimes there, sometimes less so. But his command is almost always spot on and when he's performed badly, it's been when he can't place the ball where he wants. That's what I saw against KC in those 7th and 8th innings and that's why I wanted a reliever in.
So there's that. The other important bit is that it's hard to know what exactly is sustainable at this stage. He just hasn't been pitching for long enough to be very certain. For instance, it's hard to do a good projection for a guy who's only just moved to starting. Typically, that means you lose a bit of stuff, but your walks don't change much. Sale's lost stuff, but he seems to have lost more than usual in order to gain a great deal of command.
For his career, he's at about an average walk rate. So is that the real Sale? Should we expect regression all the way to the MLB mean? Or has he taken a definitive jump forward? If all we had ever seen was this season, we'd expect he had superior command. I'm sure everyone here thinks he has superior command. Then again, everyone here hates Phil Humber now and loved him last year.
Whatever your theory, you need to expect some regression. But how much?